Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dolls hold Gardas to under forty; Rockits return in season opener

The Minnesota RollerGirls opened their home season at the legendary Roy Wilkins Auditorium this past Saturday. We began this season in a different manner than previous years at the Roy. Flipping the season on its head, the home teams have hit the track first, meaning our reigning champion Atomic Bombshells took on the Rockits in their first bout as the Dagger Dolls challenged the Garda Belts.

Rockits v Atomic Bombshells

Let's set the stage. The Atomic Bombshells entered into this bout having won their last two bouts against the Rockits. A jammer triumvirate led by L'exi-Cuter bested the core Rockit defense more than 60% of the time (and indeed, L'exi went 10 for 10 on lead jams against the Rockits in their first bout last season). On the ABS defense, Mitzi Massacre, Misfit Maiden, Diamond Rough, and Tara Skatesov created space for their jammers to thrive, then clanged the door shut on the Rockits. Harmony Killerbruise played heavily into the Rockit offense last season, but with her departure the team had no single dominant jammer. The loss of Mae Gusta and Misfit Maiden also left the Bombshells with some significant gaps in their defense as they entered this game, but the Rockits gained one blocker to their core blocking staff as Frau Scientits returned this season to the track.

The Rockits scored three new players from the MNRG boot camp program to supplement this year's ranks. The Bombshells chose four as well - three fresh players and one transfer (Smoka Hontas) from Angel City. In years past, the rookies had several months to tame their new skills for the league. The new season's schedule changes that so that it is each team's responsibility to quickly bring their teams up to speed - as the fight for ranking begins in October, not January.

The Rockits wasted no time in showing off their first draft pick - Commander Nix - by putting her at the jammer line against L'exi-Cuter for the first jam of the season. The Commander came around the outside of the pack and took the first lead with L'exi right behind. The Bombshell line stormed the front of the pack to escape the incoming Rockit rookie, but Commander Nix got in and got two to L'exi's one. Rockit captain Scarmen Hellectra took the next lead, slicing through danger and scoring a fast four on her opponent Lizzy the Axe. Patently "Leo" Offensive (formerly a Dagger Doll) scored another lead for the women in red by breaking through a Bombshell pack made short by an early penalty to Madame de Stompadour. With Leo's teammate Trixxie Whipsum diverting the pack, the Rockit also scored four points. Abbie Mischief made it four consecutive lead jams, scoring four as well. 14-1 with fifteen remaining.

The Bombshells staunched the bleeding in these early jams by getting their jammer through only moments after the Rockit caught the lead. They picked up their first shot at a counterattack when Commander Nix got sent to the box. Bombshell jammer Freeze Baby forced her way through a tightly-skating Rockit pack and started sprinting. Freeze made three scoring passes in thirty seconds for fourteen points as the Bombshell pack goated Rockit Vuedoo Prodigy to keep the Rockits from trying to keeping pace with Freeze.

Now, 'goating' is fast becoming a common strategy in modern derby, so let me explain this one. When jammers fight and skate their way through a pack, the blockers trying to stop them can only impede their progress when they're in 'the pack'. In the most basic terms, a pack is where the most skaters from both teams happen to be. When a jammer is in a power jam opportunity (where the opposing jammer is in the penalty box), the opposing team will often try to keep pace with the jammer on the track; doing so keeps that player from passing and scoring points. The team with the power jam will often try to peel off one of those players in flight and hold them well behind the rest of their team. Doing so establishes 'the pack' (the refs say, "Here is where the most players from both teams are on the track! THE PACK IS HERE!") This behavior, called 'trapping' or 'goating', puts those other players out of play; they can't engage the jammer who's speeding and they so they have to skate back to where the pack is. While that chaos ensues, a quickly-moving player can get five or ten or fifteen points. Got it? Good! The Bombshells goated Vuedoo; on with the game!

Freeze called off the jam with Commander Nix still sitting in the box. Lizzy the Axe then took the lead and another nine points. However, Nix was so impatient to return to the track from the penalty box that she skated half of the length of the track to get behind the pack. She broke through and scored four of her own before Lizzy could call off the jam. The Bombshells nonetheless took the lead, 23-18. Rockits took a timeout.

Atomic Bombshell co-captain Venus Thightrap then scored her first point of the night, besting a Rockit defense larger than her own. In the next jam, neither Scarmen nor L'exi-Cuter could take the lead. However, as the jam entered into its second minute, L'exi found ways to score by juking past Frau Scientits and Honeydew...and Diamond Rough held up Scar long enough to force a foul on the Rockit captain. L'exi scored nineteen points to Scar's two in the ensuing power jam, and Lizzy the Axe scored four more during the final seconds of Scar's penalty box trip. As the Bombshells built their lead to 25 (46-21) with nine remaining, the women in orange called for a timeout.

Returning to the track for her second jam, Freeze Baby grabbed the lead and four points by once again busting up the pack in front of her. With her the half-century mark, Lizzy played against the Rockits' Commander Nix. Vuedoo Prodigy and Killahertz began a pattern of recycling Lizzy to the back of the pack which eventually led to Lizzy's getting caught by a major track cut. Commander Nix took advantage of the power jam for twenty while her team opened space on the track. 50-41 Bombshells still ahead.

The bout took a serious turn two jams later when Abbie Mischief jammed against Venus Thightrap. Venus called off the jam after scrabbling through Rockit defense for four as Abbie came in to start scoring. However, the conclusion of a hit as the jam completed went very badly indeed, as Diamond Rough sent Abbie across the track line. Abbie's fall to the concrete floor broke her leg in two places. We expect Abbie to return, and we wish her well in her recovery.

The bout quickly reset, and Commander Nix took the next lead (scoring four) as fellow Rockits rookie Salvador Brawlie stopped L'exi from breaking through the pack. With one last jam in the half and ten points separating the teams, Scarmen Hellectra caused a lead change with a twenty-point power jam off of a mistake from ABS jammer Freeze Baby as the Rockits pack goated Diamond Rough, then CleoSPLATra to break down the ABS pack's ability to hit. And so at halftime, the Rockits took the lead, 65-55.

The Bombshell's first half of the season did not quite have the punch of the championship team of season six. Whether it was the Rockit pack holding back jamming monsters like Venus and L'exi, or the red jammers busting past the dangerous Bombshell defense, the Bombshells struggled to get their jammer out front first. Because of that, they scored very few points outside of power jams and couldn't quite keep up with the scoring of the Rockits.

The women in red continued to apply pressure for the first five minutes of the second half. Commander Nix, Frau Scientits (in on the jamming rotation in place of Abbie Mischief), Leo, and Scar scored eleven unanswered points over four jams while the core Rockit staff attacked the Bombshell jammers to distraction. Frau monstered up as front blocker, trapping ABS jammers behind her long enough for Vuedoo and Killahertz to recycle and deposit the player behind the pack.

L'exi-cuter and the Bombshells finally stopped the bleeding with four points, but at some cost. L'exi went to the box, and Commander Nix began a jam with a full pack of defenders, and only two Bombshells on the track - the position the derby world has taken to calling the 'minivan' (named for the position of power that kids have on a road trip when there's five in the back and just two parents in the front). Nix and the women in red took control and brought the score to 90-59.

With more Bombshells in the box than Rockits, ABS jammer Venus Thightrap caught Coochie Coup out in the front of the pack and took the lead. Scar burst through soon after, but Venus did not call the jam as she broke through for the initial scoring run. Normally, that's a risky maneuver because you risk the opposing jammer scoring just as many points as you...but it appeared to be the right decision, as Scar scored one point and was then sent to the penalty box. Venus scored fourteen more points on the ensuing power jam. 91-77 Rockits up with ten to go. The Rockits hurriedly took a time out to reboot.

Scarmen Hellectra took the next lead as the front Rockits again walled off the ABS jammer, holding her for Vuedoo Prodigy to waterfall in and drop the Bombshell like a rock. Scar scored a slam, and Commander Nix stole two from lead jammer L'exi in the next jam as the Bombshell attempted to call it off. Scar returned in as jammer, but got sent out to the box for a back block. The Rockits started playing keepaway (or as it's called, "Kittens in the box") by skating just ahead of the Bombshells, keeping the orange blockers between them and the ABS jammer. Venus wisely called off the jam. With Scar in the box, Bombshell jammer Freeze Baby grabbed a double slam. It was almost saved by Scarmen Hellectra returning from the box, but an errant penalty in a no-pack situation sent her right back to the box. The jam got called, and L'exi came in to harvest another ten points from the power jam. 98-97 with three to play.

Nix scored the lead for the following jam as Frau held up her opponent Lizzy, but the veteran Bombshell jammer snuck through nonetheless to score two to Nix's three. Vuedoo Prodigy and Venus could not score in the next jam, and so a final timeout was taken by the Bombshells to work out the last two minutes (with 41 seconds remaining, there was little doubt that this would be the final jam). The Rockits put up recent acquisition Patently Offensive against L'exi-Cuter. The packs of both teams bristled with All-Stars. Hard-hitting Diamond Rough and Tara Skatesov went in for the Bombshells; the Rockit pack filled up with the core Red Wall defense. The first whistle blew, and the Rockit blockers moved slowly off the line to milk time. Finally, the jammers were off, and Leo broke ahead past Diamond...but not with the lead jam. Had L'exi been able to break the Rockit wall successfully, she could have gone woman-on-woman against Leo for points. However, the Reds trapped the Bombshell jammer, knocking her down and sending her to the back of the pack for the remainder of the jam. Leo scored a straight double slam and took the day for the Rockits. Final score: 111-99 with the Rockits scoring the first win.

Lead Jams: 15

D1 Commander Nix 6-9, 43 pts
28 Scarmen Hellectra 5-11, 35 pts
281 Patently Offensive 3-4, 19 pts
318 Abbie Mischief 1-3, 4 pts
23 Frau Scientits 0-1, 10 pts
LXIX Vuedoo Prodigy 0-1, 0 pts

Lead Jams: 12

187 L'exi-cuter 3-11, 35 pts
0054 Freeze Baby 3-4, 27 pts
55 Venus Thightrap 4-7, 22 pts
41 Lizzy the Axe 2-7, 15 pts

Dagger Dolls vs Garda Belts
We never really felt the game was in the bag. I kept looking at the scoreboard thinking "Is this enough?... okay now is this enough?" We have seen the MNRG Allstars pull off some huge comebacks, so we just continued to play our best. I couldn't relax, even after the game; it seemed surreal.
-Wonderbroad, Dagger Doll co-captain

Huge changes came to both the Garda Belts and the Dagger Dolls over the summer. Angelfire, Tiki Torture, and Hanna Belle Lector all jumped to the Dolls from the Gardas. In addition, the pink girls took in Olga Oglethorpe and Naughty Kitty, former co-captains of the North Star home team Delta Delta well as Juke Boxx, a rookie standout of Madison's Dairyland Dolls. The effect of these transfers cannot be underestimated. Between the six new players and new co-captains Psycho Novia and Wonderbroad, the team has been revitalized...but it had not lost its hard-hitting edge. Besides Psycho and Wonnie, many other veteran Dollys have skated with a renewed purpose: returning the Golden Skate to the Dagger Dolls and more immediately ending the eleven-game losting streak plaguing the women in pink.

Though the Gardas lost Angel, Tiki, and Hanna to the Dolls, the losses gave them more space to add new players to their ranks. The Gardas Belts drafted seven players this year and brought back former Garda Ann E Briated to their fold. Whether the exuberance of Dropkick Donna, the wily experience of Betty LaRude, or the fresh speed of draftee Sintripetal Force, the Gardas tested the new blood to find a new balance of speed and power against the Dolls.

The bout began very much like other Dagger Doll/Garda Belt bouts - with Psycho Novia and Suzie Smashbox taking the first jamming shift of the game. As the first whistle blew, it was plain that something had changed. Dagger Dolls old and new came up to receive Suzie and send her hurtling to the ground while Psycho found a seam and broke through for the lead. Suzie attempted to scrabble past Wonderbroad and Naughty Kitty, but received a forearm penalty for her effort and was sent to the box. Psycho scored seventeen unanswered points.

Killaman 'Man Jar' Jaro went to the line unopposed while Suzie waited out her penalty, but Man Jar's attempt to jump past several players through the track's second apex met with failure as Garda transfer Betty LaRude sent a player into the jammer mid-air, forcing a misconduct foul. To the box went Man-Jar, and in came Suzie. Due to Citizen Pain's clever baiting of the Doll front line out of the engagement zone, Suzie scored a double slam. 17-10 Dollys up.

The Dolls put Juke Boxx (newly-transferred from Madison's Dairyland Dolls) at the jammer line against Shiva Shankin' (also new, formerly of the North Stars) in Garda green. The Doll pack separated the Gardas left and right, creating a valley for the 'Sconnie sprinter to burst through and take the lead. The opening collapsed, and Shiva had little luck in making her way through the valley of the Dolls. Barbie Brawl forced a track cut on Shiva, sending her to the box. Juke scored fourteen on the power jam.

With Shiva still in the box, Psycho took the lead and scored another nine. Tiki Torture opened the door for the second scoring pass by knocking several of her former Garda teammates aside with a single hit. Killaman scored another ten as Olga Oglethorpe and Lydia Punch held up Suzie Smashbox, setting up their teammates to knock down the mighty Garda jammer. Angelfire - another transfer from the Garda bench - scored a quick three against her former team. 53-14 Dollys up with eight to go in the half.

Longtime Dolly troublemaker Scootaloo then put on the star and used the chaos created by Rumblebee tripping her (sending 'bee to the box for the first of two times in that jam alone) to break through the pack for yet another Dolly lead. Scoots scored thirteen, and the Gardas called for a timeout.

Suzie got the best of the Doll pack in the next jam, scoring four to Juke Boxx's three despite an enthusiastic block to the inside on the initial pass by Dagger Doll Barbie Brawl. Barbie's captain Psycho then blew through open space created by Tiki Torture's bulldozing of the Garda pack to take the next lead and a double slam. Garda jammers Cassie Rolle and Moto Fluzzi grabbed eight points in the final two jams of the half, but both Man Jar and Angelfire found ways through, bringing the score to 92-26 as the halftime whistle blew.

It was clear already at the half that this year's Dollys had a new plan of action. For many seasons, the Dagger Dolls have had extraordinarily fast jammers but few players ready to protect them from opposing defenders. This year, that has changed. The draft picks, mixed with a revitalized Dolly old guard, were superbly holding the Gardas back. You really couldn't just point at one or two players for their effort; everyone was contributing. Amazing play from the Dolls, and another half remained.

After a no-score opening jam from Suzie and Juke, Psycho Novia went to the line against Sintripetal Force for the Gardas. The first whistle blew, and former Garda Belt (now a Dagger Doll) Hanna Belle Lector cleared the road for Psycho by hacksawing several of her former teammates to the ground. Psycho knifed through the fallen pack to get the lead as Sintripetal Force cut the track and got sent to the penalty box. Psycho blasted through for fifteen more points on the power jam as Dolls parted the Gardas to make space for their jammer, then called the jam before Sin could stand up from her penalty. 107-26 Dollys.

With Sin in the box along with two other Gardas, a blocking Juke Boxx came up from Citizen Pain's blind spot and knocked her into the other Garda remaining on the an unopposed Killaman Jaro an open floor to take the lead and score ten points. Sintripetal came out, but another penalty forced her back to the box for the start of the next jam. This left both jammers in, waiting for the start of the next jam. Killaman Jaro stood up as the track passed and slinked through the pack, scoring seven more for the Dolls before Sin returned, took the lead, and called off the jam. 124-29 Dollys with thirteen left.

Suzie scored a lead jam next against Juke Boxx...and with a belt whip from Garda co-captain Citizen Pain took three unanswered points before calling the jam. Any Garda momentum got cut short by the Dolls as Psycho raced through a disorganized green defense for the lead, slicing past her front two - Norah Torious and Tiki Torture. Tiki and the Dolly veteran Norah worked a two-wall waterfall (i.e. skating together and trading off hits on the Garda jammer) on Psycho's opposing jammer. Psycho scored fourteen unanswered points. 138-32 Dollys with eight left.

The Gardas continued to lose steam. Doll jammer Angelfire took the next lead and scored three as she called the jam, only to be caught by a late hit from former teammate Rumblebee. Juke Boxx scored another lead as she took on Suzie Smashbox yet again. This time, Naughty Kitty and Tiki Torture sent Suzie reeling while Juke orbited the pack, scoring nine. The Gardas tried Sintripetal Force. Sin took the lead, snuck through the pack (skating where Tiki and Norah Torious weren't looking), and scored two.

That would be the last chance for the Gardas to score. Both Suzie Smashbox and Cassie Rolle went to the box over the next two jams, giving Lydia Punch and Scootaloo - both vet Dollys - the opportunity to score in this cathartic win for the Dagger Dolls. Final score: 168-36. The Dolly losing streak has been shattered. Bombshells and Rockits...get ready for the new Dolly regime.

Lead Jams: 6

91 Suzie Smashbox 3-9, 21 pts
850cc Moto Fluzzi 0-1, 8 pts
1.618 Sintripetal Force 2-5, 5 pts
350 Cassie Rolle 1-5, 2 pts
10-72 ShivaShankn 0-3, 0 pts

Lead Jams: 17

109 Psycho Novia 5-5, 64 pts
9 Killaman Jaro 2-5, 37 pts
A18 Juke Boxx 3-6, 26 pts
FU Scootaloo 2-2, 16 pts
789 Lydia Punch 1-1, 15 pts
c² Angelfire 3-3, 10 pts
711 Ova Acheiva 1-1, 0 pts

1 comment:

Chao said...

Amazing, as usual. You captured the excitement of the entire night in words! I love forwarding your blog to people who can't be there in person. Thank you, for all you do. Metal guys DO get sappy once in a while. \m/